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Development. 1999 Dec;126(23):5485-93.

flex, an X-linked female-lethal mutation in Drosophila melanogaster controls the expression of Sex-lethal.

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Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560 012, India.


The Sex-lethal (Sxl) gene is required in Drosophila females for sexual differentiation of the soma, for gem cell differentiation and dosage compensation. We have isolated three new alleles of female-lethal-on-X (flex), an X-linked female-lethal mutation and have characterized its function in sex determination. SXL protein is missing in flex/flex embryos, however transcription from both Sxl(Pe), the early Sxl promoter and Sxl(Pm), the late maintenance promoter, is normal in flex homozygotes. In flex/flex embryos, Sxl mRNA is spliced in the male mode. Analysis of flex germline clones shows that it also functions in oogenesis, but in contrast to Sxl mutants that show an early arrest tumorous phenotype, flex mutant egg chambers develop to stage 10. In flex ovarian clones, Sxl RNA is also spliced in the male form. Hence, flex is a sex-specific regulator of Sxl functioning in both the soma and the germline. Genetic interaction studies show that flex does not enhance female lethality of Sxl loss-of-function alleles but it rescues the male-specific lethality of both of the gain-of-function Sxl mutations, Sxl(M1 )and Sxl(M4.) In contrast to mutations in splicing regulators of Sxl, the female lethality of flex is not rescued by either Sxl(M1 )or Sxl(M4). Based on these observations, we propose that flex regulates Sxl at a post-splicing stage and regulates either its translation or the stability of the SXL protein.

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